Logo   Smugglers Notch, Stowe, Vermont
The dramatic mountain defile north of Stowe, Vermont, is a favorite drive or hike in summer. In winter, it's closed by snow.


In northern New England, a narrow mountain pass is called a notch.

The notch north of Stowe VT (map) got its name from smugglers running rum from Canada.

As you approach the mountains and the defile from the south along VT Route 108, on the left (west) is Mount Mansfield (4393 feet, 1339 meters); on the east, Spruce Peak (3320 feet, 1012 meters) and Madonna Mountain (3640 feet, 1109 meters).

Mansfield and Spruce are part of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort; Madonna is part of Smugglers Notch ski resort, and is reached from the northern side of the notch.

As you enter the notch, the road begins to twist and turn among tremendous boulders fallen from the steep sides of the defile over the eons.

Many of the corners are blind, so proceed slowly. Use your horn to alert oncoming drivers. Listen for the horns of others approaching from the north.

The foliage gets thick, trees block the sun's light, and as you grind along up the switchback slope, a sense of wildness and excitement takes over.

Just over the 2162-foot (659-meter) pass, on its north side, are parking places (you dare not stop unless you can pull off the narrow road) with benches, toilets, a snack stand (open in summer), and several hiking trails which invite one to clamber into the rocks.

Smugglers Notch is closed by snow in winter, and is not kept open for vehicles, so only those with skis or snowshoes can get through.

Smugglers Notch in winter, Stowe, Vermont
Smugglers Notch, a narrow mountain pass, closed in winter.

The Smugglers Notch ski resort is on the north side of the notch. To get there in winter you must drive all the way around the mountain, north on VT Route 100 to Morristown and Hyde Park, west on Route 15 to Johnson and Jeffersonville, then south on Route 108 via South Cambridge to the resort.

Want more notches? Northern New England has them:

Franconia Notch, site of the (former) Old Man of the Mountain

Dixville Notch, with The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel and "First in the Nation" ballot-counting

Pinkham Notch, beloved by hikers up Mount Washington

—by Tom Brosnahan

What to See & Do

Where to Stay in Stowe

Smuggler's Notch Skiing

Skiing at Stowe

Stowe Transportation

About Stowe

Tourist Information

Northern Vermont

About Vermont

  Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


Smugglers Notch Road, Stowe VT

Above, the steep, narrow one-lane road through Smugglers Notch near Stowe VT. Snow closes the road during the winter.


Smugglers Notch, Stowe VT

Coming from the north, it looks as though the road goes over the edge of the earth.

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